Nuclear Waste and its Dubious Disposal

nuclear_waste1.jpgThe whole nation is divided over the Nuclear Deal; will they or will they not? Whether this deal will actually be a positive move for our country is still an uncertainty and is being widely debated. What is certain is that this deal will bring in more nuclear waste and, yet this is not being discussed at all.

It was in 1945 when the United States of America dropped her first atomic bomb. It has been more than 60 years now and the government of Japan still doesn’t know what to do with the high level waste that is generated. Five years ago, U.S had generated more than 91 million gallons of nuclear waste. If we put all this into tank cars, the National Geographic said, the train “would reach around the Equator and then some”. Will 15 years of experience make us adept at dealing with this huge problem? Are we ready? Have we even given this any thought? Your guess is as good as mine. We all have been kept in the dark and that is extremely unnerving.

If all the spent fuel is not kept away safely, then of course it will leak into the environment, which would mean that we all face the risk of being exposed to radioactive materials. The National Geographic reported the case of a former employee at a nuclear facility in the U.S who was not informed that he was being routinely exposed to plutonium and other radioactive material. He blames this exposure for his bladder cancer and loss of a kidney.

If the existing nuclear waste is not being disposed off properly, this will lead to the leaching of the soil and contamination of the water bodies. There will be a greater chance of lands becoming barren and will also increase the risk of cancers. The nuclear tests and the spent fuel cannot be directly linked to cancer, but it is more of an open secret. We all know its true and yet none of us seem to care.

The cost of proper disposal of the nuclear waste is staggering. The National Geographic says that it will be 400 billion dollars over 75 years. We need special equipment designed to handle any kind of external pressure, earthquake, heat etc and still not leak. This high cost is taxing for the people of America and America is a Superpower. In our land where poverty, diseases and backwardness run rampant, can we afford to foot such a bill?

Furthermore, there are no health and environment standards which the government needs to abide while doing away with the waste to safeguard us and our environment. This basically means that the government can callously dispose off the nuclear waste, take dangerous shortcuts, cut cost by compromising on our safety and they still won’t be violating any norms. And, the N-Deal is only being discussed in terms of a political party’s future.

Another disturbing facet is the amount of land that will be needed for nuclear testing and getting rid of the waste. Hundreds of acres of land will be needed and this will obviously translate into deforestation. So, productive, life giving land will be transformed into a land where giant casks will store material which has the potential to destroy almost everything. Already pollution has increased so much, add to this nuclear pollution and we get a perfect recipe for disaster. Furthermore, isn’t one of the main reasons why solar and wind power hasn’t been developed for electricity, precisely this? That it takes too much space. Clearly, when there is a will, there is a way.

If we continue in the same fashion, soon there will be lesser Homo sapiens and other form of wildlife and lesser forests than the amount of nuclear waste and spent fuel. That is, if a nuclear war or a leak doesn’t kill us all before that. This surely is a gory picture but I hope this makes us all against any form of nuclear weapons or power plants. Like Marcus Page, an anti nuclear peace activist says, “There is no safe way to store it, and so it is irresponsible to generate radioactive materials that last for hundreds of generations”.

Shravya Jain